Through this, I did research on the work that the YMCA did during the great wars. This remembrance day, I’d like to share some interesting facts that I came across as I searched through archives and historical documents.
Ten days after the war was declared, the YMCA had established more than 250 centres in the United Kingdom, providing refreshments and reading materials.
Within a year, the YMCA received permission to establish a centre within the area of army operations. By the end of the year, small centres were in hundreds of places close to the front, providing food and drink.
By June 1915, there were 1500 YMCA workers in Europe – mostly volunteers.
“For me, the most interesting initiative the YMCA took was to open a hostel in France dedicated to the relatives of terminally ill men. This allowed families to visit them in their last days. A YMCA car met the visitors at the port and took them to see their soldiers. They transported over 100 visitors each day.”
Throughout the war the YMCA was most visible through its ‘Tea Cars’. A ‘Tea Car’ was a camouflaged van fitted with a small kitchen. By the end of 1940, there were 500 vans in service with various national YMCAs running them.